Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

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Map of the Great Milton Fire of May 14, 1880

Map from the book “Milton, Pennsylvania, the 19th Century Town on Limestone Run” by Homer F. Folk

OBITUARY: A SAD DEATH. During the terrible fire which occurred in Milton, Northumberland County, Pa., on the 14th of May, destroying a large portion of the town, as may be seen by an account given in another part of this paper, there was a sad affliction visited on the family of ABRAHAM ANGENY, an uncle of ours, formerly from Bucks county. On account of his age and feeble health, he was probably not able to get out of the way and perished in the flames.

For the benefit of his many friends, who are readers of our paper, we will add an extract from a private letter to us from William Shields, a son-in-law and his wife Kate (Katherine Angeny).

The saddest part of all, to us at least, was that father lost his life in the flames. He was so terribly burned as to be almost beyond recognition. Had it not been for his crippled hand, and a single wristband of his shirt, we could not have identified him. Mother (Leah Fretz Angeny) and Nerva (Mary Minerva Angeny, the youngest daughter), narrowly escaped without harm, by fleeing across the river. They saved nothing but Nerva's trunk and what clothing Bro. Hill (Seth Comly Hill, husband of Rachel Angeny) could carry. Everything was a total loss. Bro. Hatfield’s (Reuben L. Hatfield, husband of Eva Fretz Angeny) were burned out, but saved most of their goods. We think father must have been bewildered, or choked with smoke and heat. We found him only a little distance from his home. We buried him the next day. His age was 77 years, 6 months and 18 days. How strangely and sadly the changes of life and death sometimes come over us. This aged couple had lived together in wedded life 52 years, and as cousin Kate further writes “his age and feebleness made us feel for several years past that he could not be with us long any more, but we little thought that his death would come to us in so sad a way”.

Abraham Angeny

Abraham Angeny

NOTE: Abraham Angeny was my great-great-grandfather.

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891: The great fire of Friday, May 14, 1880, was one of the most serious disasters that ever involved an inland town of the size and population of Milton. It originated in the framing shop of the Milton Car Works, just above Locust street, east of the canal and opposite D. Clinger‘s planing mill, and the alarm was given at fifteen minutes before twelve o‘clock by the blowing of the whistles. The day was bright and clear but a high wind prevailed, and, although when first discovered the fire had just begun, it was rapidly communicated by the combustible materials of the shops to the dry house and other buildings on the south; burning faggots were carried by the wind directly toward the business and residence portion of the town, and only a few minutes elapsed before several houses and the Lawson and Bickel & Bailey foundries were being rapidly consumed. By this time the alarm had called out the citizens, and heroic efforts were being made, to suspend the progress of the conflagration. The utter futility of their work became apparent when it was seen that the Reformed and Methodist churches were in flames, and with the increasing volume and velocity of the wind it became evident to the most sanguine that the work of the citizens was utterly inadequate; telegrams were sent to neighboring places for assistance, and the people, abandoning efforts at united resistance, turned to their houses to save, if possible, their most valuable effects. Families left their homes, carrying with them such things as could be hastily collected, or, in many instances, glad to escape with life and limb unimpaired. At one o'clock in the afternoon the entire district lying between Locust and Broadway had been consumed, except the west side of Arch and either side of Front above Walnut. The Academy of Music, Associate Reformed, Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches, with a number of residences and stores and several factories, were in ashes.

The desolating element had also included in the theater of its activities that part of the town south of Broadway; and soon after the Reformed church was found to be in flames, fire was discovered in the postoffice building on the south side of Lincoln park, occupied by the Western Union telegraph office, the Miltonian, etc. Thence the flames spread to the opposite side of Front street, and down that street on both sides as far as the bridge, where their progress in that direction was stayed by the action of the wind and the efforts of the firemen. In an easterly direction, from Front street to the railroad, and from Broadway to Lower Market, scarcely a building remained except a planing and flouring mill and a few small houses between the canal and railroad at the Mahoning street bridge. Prominent among the buildings destroyed in this part of the town were the Baptist, Lutheran, and Evangelical churches, the Milton National Bank building, the principal stores and hotels of the town, with a number of residences and industrial establishments. Of the business of the place but two small groceries and one drug store remained. In three hours one hundred twenty-five acres had been burned over, involving a loss of property aggregating in value two million and a quarter dollars, six hundred sixty-five buildings of all kinds were consumed, and six hundred families were rendered homeless.

Immediate measures were taken for the relief and comfort of the destitute. A relief committee was formed, composed of Rev. S. H. Reid, J. F. Bucher, George J. Piper, Robert Riddle, W. A. Schreyer, W. P. Dougal, J. M. Hedenberg, Alem Dieffenderfer, R. F. Wilson, C. C. Straub, C. H. Dougal, George W. Strine, Moses Chamberlin, C. W. Tharp, Daniel Weidenhamer, J. F. Wolfinger, W. C. Lawson, A. Cadwallader, George Barclay, S. L. Finney, W. H. Reber, Cyrus Brown, Jacob Seydell, Frank Bound, and O. B. Nagle, by whom an appeal was issued to the country at large for assistance. This appeal met with a prompt response. Lewisburg and Williamsport were the first to send provisions; the next was a car from Harrisburg, and these, with wagon-loads from the adjoining farming region, supplied the immediate necessities of the people. On Saturday a consignment of tents was received from Harrisburg, and these afforded protection and temporary shelter. Cash contributions to the amount of eighty-seven thousand eight hundred nineteen dollars, nineteen cents were received from various cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania and adjoining States, and distributed among the sufferers by the fire under awards made by Benjamin S. Bentley, James Gamble, and Samuel Linn, matters in chancery appointed by the court of common pleas of Northumberland county, August 12, 1880. The expenses of this commission were deducted from the relief fund, and a small balance, less than a hundred dollars, was placed to the credit of the borough for the benefit of the poor. Assistance from outside sources was also received in the rebuilding of churches, and the legislature made an appropriation to aid the directors in erecting a school building. While the town was thus almost completely demolished, its resources remained substantially unimpaired, and under the energetic efforts of its citizens the work of rebuilding was promptly begun and continued, with such results to the general material, religious, and educational interests of the community as need no amplification here.